Teens and Driving

Getting a dri­ver’s license has been a major rite of pas­sage for Amer­i­can teens for decades. It’s a move towards increased inde­pen­dence and respon­si­bil­i­ty. Being able to dri­ve means it’s far eas­i­er to get to a job, go out with friends, and attend and par­tic­i­pate in school events.

As more and more acquain­tances’ kids hit 15 and 16, I’m find­ing that many of them don’t seem at all ready for their chil­dren to learn to dri­ve — regard­less of the teen’s per­son­al­i­ty, skills, etc. 

I find this very sur­pris­ing. When I was 16, my par­ents were more than hap­py to have me start dri­ving myself and my sib­lings to var­i­ous events. I put in many hours behind the wheel from the time I got my learn­er’s per­mit around my 15th birth­day ’til I got the cov­et­ed dri­ver’s license. I drove on sur­face streets and inter­states in all kinds of Geor­gia weath­er, at all times of the day and night. Yes, I learned to dri­ve in metro Atlanta traf­fic, though it was­n’t QUITE as bad in 1982 as it is now. I avoid­ed wrecks in at least two sit­u­a­tions which my moth­er acknowl­edged would have result­ed in seri­ous acci­dents had she been behind the wheel—and one of those hap­pened the day after I got the learn­er’s permit.

I did have the offi­cial dri­ver’s edu­ca­tion course offered at the local com­mu­ni­ty school. It did­n’t teach me any­thing. My par­ents did­n’t tru­ly expect it to teach me any­thing, as that was their job — I took it so we could get a dis­count on our auto insur­ance as a result.

My father had very high stan­dards for dri­ving, just like every­thing else. He was a bas­tard about it, but I learned those lessons very well. If we were in the car, I was the dri­ver. Peri­od. He already knew this: Kirk­ish not­ed how impor­tant expe­ri­ence behind the wheel is to teens, cit­ing the fact that a teen’s crash risk drops by one-half after sev­er­al hun­dred miles of dri­ving. (From LANE RANGER: Enforc­ing dri­ving laws for teens ben­e­fits us all)

I did­n’t get a tick­et or have a wreck ’til I was out of their house and on my own — and I haven’t had many of either, peri­od. My dri­ving record, even as a teen, was much bet­ter than my moth­er’s (who isn’t a BAD dri­ver, just over­ly cau­tious, which is dan­ger­ous in and of itself).

My broth­er was also a pret­ty good dri­ver My sis­ter had MANY wrecks. She was nev­er tech­ni­cal­ly at fault, but she was­n’t a very defen­sive dri­ver at all, and she was prone to eat­ing and putting on make-up while dri­ving — less atten­tion on the road=more acci­dents. She sur­vived and did­n’t harm any­one else, and she did get better.

Most of the peo­ple I know who are so loathe to let their lit­tle dar­lings off the chauf­feur strings were also dri­ving at 16. They sur­vived, and none of them have acknowl­edged doing any­thing ter­ri­bly stupid.

So why are they so damned fear­ful? Is it an attempt to keep their chil­dren close to home and depen­dent? Is it yet anoth­er symp­tom of “the world is a worse place now” think­ing? I can’t help but think that these par­ents are wrap­ping their kids up in cot­ton to pro­tect them from reality.

I cer­tain­ly don’t think every teen is ready to dri­ve at 15 or 16. Some of them sim­ply do not have the motor skills, judg­ment or self-con­trol to be trust­ed at the wheel. That’s where par­ents are sup­posed to be involved. Pre­sum­ably, they know their off­spring bet­ter than any­one else, and if they have a teen who is not devel­op­men­tal­ly ready to dri­ve, they are being respon­si­ble in keep­ing that child off the road.

But par­ents who say that their child is self-dis­ci­plined, has good motor skills, is respon­si­ble, and has shown good judg­ment, but still won’t per­mit their 15 and 16-year-olds to even learn to dri­ve? That’s what I don’t under­stand. Does anyone?

FWIW, I look for­ward to shad­owkatt learn­ing to dri­ve and being able to run her­self all over king­dom come. Unless she proves her­self unready, she’ll start dri­ving with me as soon as she gets her learn­er’s per­mit and spend enough time behind the wheel to get those sev­er­al hun­dred miles of expe­ri­ence well before she’s dri­ving alone.

A few links I mean to check inves­ti­gate later:
Road Ready Teens
Real World Driver
Ride Safe Georgia

Cur­rent Mood: 😉weird
Cyn is a proud Mommy & Mémé, professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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